“What did you do today,” Maga asked.

“Not a whole lot,” I said. “Did some work, went for a walk, ate dinner.”

“Did you go into the office?”

“Oh, no. We’re not allowed.”

“You’re not?”

“Nope. Not because of the coronavirus.”

“How long have you been doing that?”

“Since Friday the 13th.”

Maga chuckled. “That’s sort of a…special… day.”

I knew what she meant, so I laughed along with her.

“In January?” Maga said.

“No. No. Just since March.”

“You know? This whole mess is starting to get to me.”

“How so?”

“I can’t see anyone. No family. No friends.”

“I know! It’s very quiet here too.”

“Good thing for the telephone.”

“A very good thing,” I agreed.

“You know, we used to talk every week.”

“Maga! We still do.”

“We do?”

“I call you every week. Faithfully. I promised.”

She didn’t sound convinced. “We’ll have to get that going again.”

“I’ll continue to call you every week.” (I can be equally as stubborn.) “Are you eating dinner right now?”

“I am.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“No, no. I’m not all that hungry anyways.”

“What’s for dinner?”

“Let’s see here. Some fried potatoes. And some fruit, some fruit, no that’s not what I mean. Some fried chicken.”

“Sounds good!”

“And there’s some dessert here, too.”

“Oooh. What is is? Cookies? Pie?”

“It’s in a plastic cup with a covering.”

“So it’s a surprise?”

“It’s fruit.”

“That’s not a very good surprise.”

“What’s that? I didn’t catch it.”

“What’s your favorite dessert?”

“Ice cream.”

“Do you have a favorite flavor?”

“Chocolate. Vanilla. I’m pretty agreeable to most anything ice cream.”

If there was any doubt we share the same genes, it’s gone with that statement.

And with that, I let her go to pursue her dream of getting someone to take her outside for a walk because it was a nice night (“blue sky and very little clouds”) and girl wanted some fresh air. I wasn’t entirely sure that was permitted in this time of the coronavirus, but I encouraged her (attempt at a) jail break nevertheless. Maybe the fresh air would help her remember that I do in fact call every week! Either that or I need to get some better material to make my calls more memorable.




“Thank you, dear! This is Abby, right?”

In my exuberance at finally getting through, I forgot to introduce myself. “Yes, it is!”

“Hi, darling.”

“So, how does it feel?”

“99 feels like too much.”

“Or it feels just right! Did you get some cake today?”

She called out to her nighttime caregiver, who’d kindly moved into the other room to give Maga some privacy on the call. “Did I get cake?”

“You got some tennis shoes and some delicious looking cookies.” Maga reported the same to me, as if I hadn’t heard that entire exchange.

“I’m so happy to hear you’ve got some dessert available. You do have quite the sweet tooth.”

“Yes, I do. Where are you right now?”

“At home. I can’t go anywhere else!”

“Yes, it seems like that’s where everyone is these days. It’s such a shame they had to deny us our dinner party.”

“I know, but we’re all trying to keep each other safe and healthy.”

“Do you feel okay?”

“Yes, so far.”

“How old am I?”


“Egads. How can I be that old?”

I cracked up at the exclamation. Such a 99yo thing to say. ;) “Oh, Maga, my friends have been texting me to tell you happy birthday.” (which, by the way friends, A+!!! I had no idea hearing those words would make me so emotional…)

“You have a friend with a birthday today too?”

“No. They’re telling me to tell YOU happy birthday.”

“That’s nice.”

“I thought so.”

“One day all this mess is going to clear up and we’re going to get together to celebrate.”

And just like that my spirits were off the ground and sky high.

“This is a big moment in my life.”

It is indeed. A monumental moment. One I wish I could have celebrated in person, but at least we were able to connect today, and for now, that’s enough.



It’s Tuesday. The day Maga and I always chat. Life is NOT normal, but I’ve called her twice and she’s not answering. I know life is weird right now, but it is the day before Maga turns 99, and it it the day we usually talk, so I’m in it. I’m here.

Third time’s the charm. She answers. “Hi Abby, dear.”

“How are you feeling, Maga?”

“My birthday isn’t until tomorrow.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“Don’t tell. It’s a secret between you and me.”

“Sure thing, Maga.”

“Could you help me with this?” Maga asks her caregiver to break down the candy bar in her hand, while I break down behind the scenes at the thought of her turning 99 tomorrow and of not being able to celebrate with her…

Her 3 musktaeers was opened and she devoured it. She’s always had a sweet tooth. She mumbled something around a mouthful that I didn’t quite understand. I queried her on it. Her caregiver overruled it all and said, “You’re 99, eat it.”

I couldn’t agree more.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been 99 before,’ Maga said.

“I’d have to agree with that,” I said. “But as of tomorrow, you will be.”

“Who was your mom and dad?” she asked.

“C and N,” I said.

“That was a good matching,” she said.

It was a long, rambling conversation beyond that about who was matched (with people) (with candy bars) and how the coronovirus thwarted us all, but her daytime caregiver helps to keep things normal, “I get on my wheelchair and my caregiver takes me around the block” but even so, the reality of it all punched us in the guts.

98 and inches away from 99 and still going strong even though the birthday celebrations are not. It’s the eve of her 99th birthday and what have I learned? She’s got more in her britches than you expect and so should we all. Quietly calmly we’ll get through this.



“Hello, Abby dear,” Maga said.

“Hello!” I said, trying to be bright, happy, and not battling a headache.

“How are you?”

“A bit sad, actually.” (Welp, that bright and happy facade didn’t take long to crack.)

“Why are you sad?” Maga said.

“Because I can’t come see you this week.”

“Why not?”

“Not allowed to travel because of the coronavirus.”

“Oh the coronavirus,” Maga said at the same time I said those words. “It’s ruined all the party plans.”

“And what a party it was going to be! 99 years old!”

“I’m surprised I’ve made it. Or, almost made it.”

“It’s SO exciting!”

We did a few rounds on this topic, because, well, it’s all anyone is talking about. It’s hard to wrap our brains around the disruptions, the fear, the unknown.

“Did you know today is St. Patrick’s Day?” I asked her.

“Why, no I did not.”

“I guess you’re not wearing any green, then…?”

“Oh, I AM wearing a green sweater. It’s lovely.”

I grinned at her surprise over her outfit + her honesty.

“Are you wearing green?” she asked.

“I have a green necklace on.” (Or, I did earlier today, but at that exact moment I was in PJs, which no longer included said jewelry.)

“And what else?” Maga’s tone implied I was recreating a certain scene from Titanic, which brightened my attitude considerably.

“Well, a black sweater and jeans, but they’re not as festive as your outfit, I’m afraid.”

“How are you feeling?” Maga asked.

“Mostly fine, but still really sad I won’t get to see you this week.”

“It’s so disappointing. This just popped up and ruined our plans.”

“I was so looking forward to it!”

“We’re going to do it. In a few more months.”

Maga’s tone implied there was no room for negotiation. Just facts: the party to celebrate her 99th birthday would happen, it’d just be a few months delayed. My mood lifted again.

“I’m so happy to be talking with you,” I said.

“I love hearing your voice. We’re in this together.” And then she took my phone number (again) so she could initiate a call and I wasn’t always having to. Here I’d been dreading this call because I hadn’t wanted to disappoint her, but she was right there with facts and a clear mind and reassurance and comfort and charm.

What a role reversal! The world really is topsy turvy right now.



“Hello, Abby, darling. How are you?” Maga said.

“I’m okay for now. And you?”

“I’m just back from dinner. It takes some time to eat dinner and do the things you do.”

“True, true. So what did you have for dinner?”

“Well let me sit here and think about it.”

She did. She sat. She thought. Apparently the dinner wasn’t tasty enough to be memorable.

“What did you do today,” she asked, changing the subject away from her stalled memory.

“I went to work, and big news, [university] has canceled classes for the rest of the semester. Well, not canceled fully. The students will take class online instead.”


“Classes are canceled.”

“Do they have stockings?”

“What? No. I said classes are canceled.”


“Class. Students can’t go to class.” For some reason, the word class was tough for her to hear. “Classrooms. Teachers. Teaching. School. Education.” Eventually she understood me, or at least, she pretended she did.

To be honest, I was thrilled she didn’t seem to know much about the virus because it means it’s not all over the news there which means she’s safe. Also, the starting and stopping and repetition of a conversation felt familiar, as that’s all my brain’s been doing this week. The headlines, the doom and gloom, the uncertainty, the worry, the waiting. It all adds up to a messy mind.

It was reassuring hearing her voice, though, and you know? Maybe that’s why I had such patience for her (and the other classic topics we covered over the course of our conversation) tonight: one messy mind (anxiety filled one) understands another (nearly 99 years old one).